Though there has been bigger news this week, no story was more surprising than the sudden announcement that “Ex Machina” writer/director Alex Garland’s follow-up effort, the adult targeted sci-fi drama “Annihilation,” was sold to streaming giant Netflix.
While the film is still going theatrical in the U.S., Canada and China in February through Paramount Pictures, it will premiere everywhere else on Netflix seventeen days later. The move is seen as increasing evidence of studio lack of confidence in challenging mid-budget fare.
Now a new THR story has gone into what happened and it sounds like a bureaucratic mess. The trade says the film wrapped shooting in July 2016, but a poor test screening this summer led to a division between its two power house producers – frequent awards fare staple Scott Rudin, and Skydance chief and franchise devotee David Ellison.
Ellison was concerned the film was ‘too intellectual’ and ‘too complicated’ and wanted to change things to make it more wide appealing which would have included tweaking the ending and making Portman’s character more sympathetic. Rudin on the other hand sided with Garland, defending the movie and refusing to make changes and under contract Rudin has final cut.
Things got tense, especially as the film was looking to hit fairly low box office ceilings overseas and Ellison was coming off the expensive flop of “Geostorm” and wasn’t keen on having another film that didn’t widely connect with audiences so soon. Paramount then decided to find another distributor with a streaming service being seen as the best fit for the movie.
That’s where Netflix came in, the streamer paying for a good chunk of the film’s $55 million production budget while at the same time Paramount limits its risk exposure.
Just as several TV series on network and cable in the U.S. such as “Star Trek: Discovery,” “American Gods,” “Riverdale” and “Designated Survivor” have made blanket deals with Netflix, Amazon and the like to see them go straight to those streaming services outside the United States (bypassing local networks), it’s expected some films will now follow a similar model – ditching a staggered international theatrical release in favour of a worldwide simultaneous streaming release everywhere aside from North America.